Rhoticity in four Scottish/English border localities

Carmen Llamas and Dominic Watt

University of York, United Kingdom


In this paper we examine the variable use of postvocalic /r/ and variation in /r/ pronunciation in four towns located close to the Scottish/English border (Berwick, Eyemouth, Carlisle, Gretna). An earlier study of /r/ production in Berwick English (Watt 2006) found correlations between speaker age and degree of rhotacism (although postvocalic /r/ was overall rare) and between age and the use of alveolar taps, which were used frequently only by older speakers and negligibly by younger ones. The latter heavily favoured alveolar approximants, and there were indications that the labiodental approximant was also being adopted by Berwick teenagers. In the light of Glauser’s (2000) categorisation of the tap as ‘Scottish’ /r/ and the alveolar approximant as ‘English’ /r/, it could be argued on the basis of the data in Watt (2006) that Berwick English is increasingly convergent with other non-rhotic English varieties in northern England, and increasingly divergent from Scottish varieties with which it has traditionally shared numerous properties. We extend the study of rhoticity in the border area to Eyemouth, just to the north of Berwick on the Scottish side of the border, and to Carlisle (England) and Gretna (Scotland) at its western end. Preliminary data from wordlist readings are presented by way of further illuminating the role of this variable in marking ‘Scottishness’ and ‘Englishness’ in this transitional region.


Glauser, B. (2000). The Scottish/English border in hindsight. International Journal of the Sociology of Language 145: 65-78.

Watt, D. (2006). Rhoticity and competing national identities in Berwick upon Tweed, Northumberland. Poster presented at Sociolinguistics Symposium 16, University of Limerick, July.

Session: Paper session
Variation 5 (Phonological)
Thursday, April 3, 2008, 13:45-15:15
room: 15